Tag Archives: cocktail recipes

Cocktail time, with Brighton Beach inspiration


Green tea and tarragon cooler, A refreshing cocktail inspired by the flavors of Brighton Beach

Summer days off call for staycations for this New Yorker. Wandering unfamiliar neighborhoods often results in discovering strange exotic ingredients and specialties readily available to satisfy the cravings of home for the inhabitants who have immigrated from a far away land. Last weekends destination was Brooklyn’s Brighton Beach, aka Little Odessa, easily accessable on the B or Q train and filled with a taste of Russia’s flavorful culture.

Lucky for me I had A Russian friend to guide me on my journey through the mountains of sausage, tinned fish, dumplings,  savory pies, farmers cheeses and bizarre beverages tempting me at every market on the main drag.


Best Buy International


Best Buy International Food Company offered up the best selection of everything,  including more cured meats than I could count, an impressive amount of beer and other liquid refreshment, including Tarragon soda, a Georgian treat that my friend explained is Russia’s version of Mt. Dew. We left with bags filled spilling over with exotic treats, including two bottles of the herbal soda to experiment with later.


Neon green herbal soda

Varenichnaya, our second stop, is a must visit for dumpling lovers! Specializing in succulent skewers of grilled meat and vareniki (a light Russian dumpling boiled and sautéed in butter) this spot filled our bellies with a generous helping of little pockets of paper-thin dough filled with sauerkraut and potato. Chicken and lamb served on red-hot slivers of metal were a delicious steal at under $5 a piece.


A plate of Russian comfort

Vareniki and Pelmeni ( a meat stuffed dumpling) are both available to go frozen in bags of fifty for under ten dollars. If you choose to dine in this spot is byob only.

varenichnaya brighton beach

Eight different selections of take away dumplings

Numerous other stops on the main drag offer up interesting visits including walls of Vodka, savory baked goods made by local ladies and a book store that stocks Russian nesting dolls featuring images of the band Queen and Elvis. Walk on the beach nearby to end a perfect day away, without ever leaving NYC.

Mix up one of my cocktails for a taste inspired by Brighton Beach! It’s a thirst quenching cooler perfect for summer nights in Brighton or the location of your choice.


Mix and garnish with lemon twist

Brighton Beach Cooler

In large glass over ice build-

2 oz Green tea infused Gin, I used this recipe

juice of one lime

juice of half lemon

1/2 ounce simple syrup

3 ounces Tarragon soda, available online

Stir and top with splash of club soda or sparkling water









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Filed under cocktail recipes, Cocktails and Spirits, NYC recipes culture, Travel, Wine Pairing Recipes

A twist on a classic, Ward Eight cocktail with pink peppercorn/pomegranate/orange syrup

60's style classic cocktail suggestions

70’s style cocktail suggestions

Back in the 70’s beverage menus didn’t often consist of by the glass wine, exotic beers or creative craft cocktails, but, many a diner and restaurant had these funky illustrated placemats to help you choose a fancy cocktail  before dinner. Ladies, dolled up and sipped on a Creme De Menthe Frappe or Brandy Alexander while enjoying an evening out . Tiki Cocktails or Zombie’s in tall frosted glasses where a common sight. Every self-respecting barman in cocktail establishments had these popular choices under the belt and maybe a specialty remedy or two for what ailed you.

When I started frequenting bars in the late 70’s my drink of choice was the Ward Eight, picked from one of these retro drink guides. I had seen many pass by on numerous Friday evenings out with my parents. They looked special, a bright pink juice served with a maraschino cherry and a thick orange slice held together with a gleaming plastic sword. I felt swanky drinking it. At my neighborhood bar, Bill (a gruff, surly Irishman), scowled at me weekly as he made my Ward Eight with concentrated juice, pre made sour mix, cheap rye and gobs of grenadine,  it was not exactly something you ordered in your local dive and Bill’s version was a horrible concoction. He was happy when I finally gave in and ordered beer or a 7 & 7, the popular drink of choice in such places at the time. I still ordered Ward Eight’s in better cocktail lounges and restaurants but I figured I’d give up on trying to get a decent mixed drink in a place that proudly displayed heinous gallon jugs of pickled eggs and vienna sausages next to their whiskey selection. I hadn’t thought of Bill in years till I picked up a bottle of Redemption Rye and a friend suggested it made a fabulous Ward Eight. In honor of Bill I decided to take a walk down memory RedemptionRyelane and mix up a Ward Eight to start my weekend.

Redemption Rye, a two year old, 95% rye whiskey is just as feisty as the back label suggests. Its notes of spice, cinnamon, dark chocolate and a hint of green botanicals make it perfect to mix in a juice based cocktail. The Ward Eight has many variations but most recipes found contain a mix of orange and lemon juice, just the right mix of fruit to offset the spicy elements of Redemption.

The original recipe was created in 1898 in Boston. The story goes that Democratic political czar Martin M. Lomasney hoped to capture a seat in the state’s legislature. The drink was created to honor his election, and the city’s Ward 8 which historically delivered him a winning margin.

With a bit of trail and error I came up with my perfect variation of the Ward Eight using freshly squeezed orange and lemon juice with a touch of simple syrup infused with orange zest, pomegranate and pink peppercorns. The syrup takes the place of grenadine, the hint of orange and spice really make this a unique addition to this classic.  A delicious modern spin to an old classic and a fabulous way to start any evening!


2 ouncward eightes rye

Freshly squeezed lemon and orange juice 2 ounces each

1 oz orange /pomegranate /peppercorn syrup

Build in shaker with ice, shake well and strain into chilled martini glass


1 cup water

1 cup sugar

1 cup pomegranate seeds

zest of one medium orange

1 tablespoon pink peppercorns

Put sugar, water, peppercorns and pomegranate seeds in saucepan and heat over medium flame till sugar dissolves. Simmer for 15-20 minutes on low heat to reduce a bit. Remove from heat and add orange zest. Stir and let rest till room temp, strain through cheesecloth into large metal bowl and transfer to glass container. Also great in sparkling wine or seltzer! Keeps in fridge for 2 weeks.


Filed under Cocktails and Spirits, wine and food culture

Classic Cocktails; Rye and Ginger, Historical yet hip with fresh ginger syrup

Rye, perrier and ginger syrup

Rye, perrier and ginger syrup

One of the first cocktails I learned to make was the classic highball, better known as the Rye and ginger. Spicier than bourbon, rye was the most popular whiskey in the country before Prohibition. Made from a mash of fermented rye grain—sometimes blended with barley, corn and other grains mixed in—rye whiskey has a more aggressive flavor than the sweeter bourbon and is traditionally used in many classic cocktails, including the legendary Manhattan, made famous by Jenny Churchill (Winston’s Mum!).

Before Prohibition only fancy men or the stray scandalous party girl would be seen ordering rye with the addition of a soft drink. Rye was served straight, a manly man drink of the working class. During Prohibition what passed for rye was often grain alcohol mixed with coloring and harsh flavoring added to mimic the musky, peppery blends popular before the ban. Soft drinks were added to cut the throat burning flavor and the taste of ginger flavored soda seemed to be the most complementary. Even after the repeal rye and ginger remained a popular cocktail for gents and ladies alike. The legendary Babe Ruth even included a quart sized version of the fashionable cocktail to wash down his mammoth sized breakfast of a half dozen fried eggs, potatoes and a giant porterhouse steak!

Today artisan distilleries are producing some delicious examples of American rye including NY’s own Tuthilltown and Finger Lakes distillery. At Tuthilltown (the first to produce NY rye since Prohibition), they even grow and harvest their own rye to use in the production of this special craft spirit. man-rye-whsk-300x300

While these stellar spirits are tasty on their own I still crave the occasional rye and ginger! Lately I’ve been mixing up my highball with a twist, using Morris Kitchen craft ginger syrup and Perrier instead of Schweppes. With a bit of experimentation I’ve come up with a delicious version of my own house made Ginger Syrup with a twist including peppercorns and a bit of thyme. Try it you will love it!


Sweet Ginger Syrup with a Twist


4 ounces fresh peeled ginger sliced thin

3 teaspoons black peppercorns

2 sprigs fresh thyme

3 cups distilled water

2 cups sugar


Put all ingredients in medium sauce pan and stir to blend on medium heat to simmer. Once liquid is clear reduce heat to low and steep for an additional 40 minutes.

Steeping syrup

Steeping syrup

Remove from heat and let syrup come to room temperature. Strain through fine sieve and pour into glass storage container. Will keep in fridge for up to a month. Try it using your favorite rye in my recipe below! 

World’s Best Rye and Ginger2 ounces Rye Whiskey

Tall highball glass filled with ice

1 ounce ginger syrup

1 bottle Perrier with lemon

Add Whiskey to highball glass filled with ice, top with syrup and Perrier. Stir and enjoy! If you like you can add a bit more syrup to your taste.



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Filed under Cocktails and Spirits, NYC recipes culture, NYC Wine Bars and Restaurants